Almost every single culture in the world has its own version of the iconic sandwich. In the Middle East, they have shawarma, a delicious combination of grilled meat, vegetables, tabouli, and hummus, all soaked up with pita bread or lavash bread. Greece also relies on pita bread for their gyros, which feature roasted, shaved meats topped by tomatoes, onions, and sauce. The Italians layer meats, cheeses, and vegetables and press them into the ultimate crunchy, gooey sandwich known as the panini.
Vietnam is definitely no exception. The traditional sandwich found here is called banh mi (pronounced ben me), which is composed of a crusty French baguette, meat (options range from turkey and chicken to pork and ham & pate), pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, and cilantro. While these fillings may seem strange or even unpleasant to the untrained banh mi connoisseur, let us assure you that this sandwich rocks. It’s time for you to open your mind, cast away your doubts, and dive into the pickled vegetables – we promise you’ll never go back to Subway again.
Lucky for you, it’s cheaper and easier than ever to get your hands on banh mi. You can grab them for less than $5 at a number of Vietnamese shops and restaurants all over the state (our personal favorite is Ba-Le Sandwiches). Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can make them at home with little effort. This way, you can experiment with different fillings and ratios of meats to vegetables in order to make your own version of the ultimate Vietnamese sandwich.
The first step is finding the ingredients. You can purchase the star players – the baguette and pickled vegetables – from La Tour Bakehouse. We’ve been making these items for over 20 years, so we’re pretty confident that our versions are really delicious. Our demi-baguette is incredibly crunchy on the outside but moist, soft, and chewy on the inside. Our pickled daikon and carrots are crisp, juicy, and bursting with flavor – they’re guaranteed to wake up your taste buds. As for the rest of the ingredients, just stop by your local supermarket and pick up some meat (cold cuts, chicken, pork – whatever strikes your fancy), cucumbers, and cilantro.
The next step is assembling the sandwich. Don’t worry – it’s as simple and easy as 1, 2, 3.
1. Split open your baguette lengthwise and toast until golden brown.
2. Fill up the bread with a few ounces of meat, a wedge of cucumber, a sprig of cilantro, and a generous pile of pickled vegetables.
3. Customize your sandwich. If you like it a bit saltier, drizzle some shoyu over the top. If you like it hot, add a few slices of jalapeno peppers and a squirt of Sriracha hot sauce.
And just like that, you’ve got yourself banh mi. Take a big bite and bask in the crunchy glory of the bread crust and vegetables and chewy magnificence of the bread dough and meat. The layers and layers of flavor from the pickled daikon and carrot, fresh cucumber, and green cilantro pack a welcome punch. It’s healthy but substantial, simple but sophisticated. What more could you ask for from a sandwich?
Carpe diem! Go out and grab these goodies today and every Tuesday from 7am to 2pm at the Fort Street Mall market .